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162                                                                                                           B- POLEVOI
all that he had up till now lacked the courage to say.
But each time he caught up with her and stretched out
his hand the girl turned abruptly, ^evaded his grasp with
the litheness of a cat, and ran off in a different direction
with a merry, rippling laugh.
She was determined not to be caught, and he did not
catch her. She herself turned from the meadow to the
riverside and threw herself down on the hot golden sand,
her face flushed, her mouth open, with heaving bosom
greedily inhaling the air and laughing. Later he took her
photograph on the flowery meadow, amidst the white,
starry daisies. Then they bathed, and later he obediently
went behind a bush and turned the other way while she
dressed and wrung her bathing-suit.
When she called him he found her sitting on the sand,
her sunburned legs drawn in, dressed in her thin, light
frock with a Turkish towel wound round her head. Spread-
ing the clean white napkin on the grass and placing
pebbles on the corners to keep it down, she laid out the
contents of the parcel. They lunched on salad, cold fish
that had been carefully wrapped in oil-paper, and also
home-made biscuits. She had not even forgotten the salt,
nor even the mustard, which she brought in small cold
cream jars. There was something charming and touching
in the grave and skilful way this slip of a girl acted the
hostess. Alexei said to himself: "No more dilly-dallying.
This settles it. Pm going to propose to her this evening.
I will prove to her, convince her that she must become my
wife."
They sunned themselves on the sand, bathed once more,
and after arranging to meet again in Olya's room in the
evening, they walked slowly to the ferry, tired and
happy. For some reason, neither the cutter nor the ferry-
boat was there. They called Uncle Arkasha long and
loud until they were hoarse. The sun was already setting
in the steppe. Beams of bright pink sunlight, gliding over
the crest of the hill on the other side of the river, gilded
the roofs of the houses and the now motionless, dusty
tops of the trees in the town. The windows shone blood-
red. The summer evening was hot and quiet. But some-
thing must have happened in town. The streets, which
were usually deserted at this hour, were teeming; two